Jazz Studies alum took advantage of opportunities at USC to compose for jazz and orchestral musicians 

Ethan Chilton

The Process: Ethan Chilton

USC Thornton jazz studies alum Ethan Chilton (BM ‘20, MM ‘22) is all about taking full advantage of opportunities by experimenting with his peers. As a student at Thornton, he didn’t limit himself to writing for jazz ensembles only. His work included orchestral musicians as well. 

Over the last few years, Chilton has been selected as one of ten jazz trumpeters in the country for the 2020 National Trumpet Competition, and he won the Irwin Kostal Scholarship, a national composition prize, with a piece written for string quartet. 

Last year, professor of jazz studies Bob Mintzer’s encouragement for students to bring pieces to the USC Thornton Jazz Orchestra (TJO) allowed Chilton to work with the student ensemble to record “Resonance,” the opening track for his most recent album, “The Planets,” inspired by the eight planets and Pluto.  

“I wanted a piece that was really barren and metallic and maybe a little bit dismal. This piece, it’s a lot of E harmonic minor, just working with different shapes in that mode and helps just give it this really empty, open, barren feel,” Chilton said. “I gave the music to the TJO, the USC Thornton Jazz Orchestra, and everyone picked it up really quickly because there’s some really great musicians at this school and it’s really great to work with all of them.”

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